Monday, Sept. 3, 2012 | 2:03 a.m.
“How many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn't see? The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind”
These famous folk song lyrics contain a valuable lesson for Congress and American workers this Labor Day. Today, in the midst of a recovering economy, many American working families are concerned about keeping their jobs. The right for workers to form unions and bargain collectively for better lives has been rolled back in some states, and millions of middle class families are struggling after a decade of declining incomes.
But there’s a simple answer that’s “blowin' in the wind.” Congress can support American workers by protecting and creating jobs in the wind energy sector.
The wind power industry currently employs seventy-five thousand Americans, and states like Iowa and South Dakota already generate twenty percent of their electricity from wind. Much of this success is due to a federal policy called the Production Tax Credit, which has helped level the playing field and provided certainty to grow the American wind industry.
Thanks to this tax credit, the wind industry has created thousands of good union jobs, like those at Trinity Structural Towers factory in Newton, Iowa, where members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 347 manufacture wind towers. At a time when so many American working families are struggling, a union job can provide good wages, healthcare benefits that keep children healthy, and pensions that ensure a secure retirement.
Renewing the wind energy tax credit will support existing good-paying wind jobs and create thousands more, like the 1,000 jobs expected at the A-Power Energy Generation Systems wind turbine factory in Southern Nevada. The Production Tax Credit will help the wind industry continue to revive America’s economy and protect public health by moving the country beyond dirty energy.
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress are on track to let the Production Tax Credit expire on New Year’s Eve, killing wind jobs and stifling the industry’s future.
Already, Congress’ failure to renew the Production Tax Credit has resulted in more than 2,200 jobs cut, put at risk, or never created. Last month, 165 workers lost their United Steelworkers union jobs at Gamesa’s nacelle and rotor blade plants in Fairless Hills and Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.
If the Production Tax Credit expires at the end of the year, approximately half of all existing U.S. wind jobs are expected to disappear – that’s means more than 37,000 people out of work.
But, as the song says, “the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” This Labor Day, Congress should stand up for American workers and renew the wind energy tax credit, thereby protecting these good-paying jobs for years to come.
Allison Chin is president of the Sierra Club.